Water Table and Soil Gas Emission Responses to Disturbance in Northern Forested Wetlands
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Exotic pest infestations are increasingly common throughout North American forests. In forested wetlands, disturbance events may alter nutrient, carbon, and hydrologic pathways. Recently, ash (Fraxinus spp.) forests in North Central and Eastern North America have been exposed to the exotic emerald ash borer (EAB) (Burprestidae: Agrilus planipennis), and the rapid and extensive expansion of EAB populations since 2001 may soon eliminate most existing ash stands. Limited research has focused on post-establishment ecosystem impacts of an EAB disturbance, and to our knowledge, there are no studies that have evaluated the coupled response of black ash (Fraxinus nigra) wetland water tables, soil temperatures, and soil gas emissions to an EAB infestation. We present preliminary results that detail those responses to a simulated EAB disturbance. Water table position, soil temperature, and soil gas emissions (CO2 and CH4) were monitored in nine black ash wetlands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for three years, including one year of pre-treatment and two years of post-treatment data-collection. An EAB disturbance was simulated by girdling (Girdle) or felling (Clearcut) all black ash trees with diameters of 2.5 cm or greater within the wetland, and each treatment was applied to three sites. The results indicate that wetland water tables were insensitive to treatment effects, soil temperatures were significantly higher in the Clearcut treatment, soil gas flux was significantly higher in the Clearcut treatment, and the rate of soil gas flux was strongly regulated by water table position and temperature. No significant treatment effects were detected in the Girdle treatment during the first post-treatment year. Because water tables were insensitive to treatment, we concluded that water tables did not independently generate a soil gas flux response despite their strong regulatory influence. Furthermore, we concluded that the response of soil temperature to disturbance was largely the reason why elevated soil gas flux rates were observed in the Clearcut treatment.